After the initiative was halted amid criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill, the expert appointed to supervise a new misinformation board at the Department of Homeland Security quit on Wednesday.
The board’s mission, according to Nina Jankowicz, was to guarantee that the Department of Homeland Security followed best practices in combating disinformation while respecting Americans’ right to free speech, privacy, and civil rights.
“Every characterization of the board that you heard up until now has been incorrect, and frankly, it’s kind of ironic that the board itself was taken over by disinformation when it was meant to fight it,” she said on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes.”
During the backlash over the board, which was founded in April, Jankowicz said she & her family got multiple death threats, per report.
The Department of Homeland Security did not instantly reply to a request for comment regarding the board’s suspension, which was originally disclosed by The Washington Post on Thursday.
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Jankowicz said she intended to create innovative events “to equip people with the tools” to interpret disinformation in today’s world, rather than “not say what was true or false — that was never the intention.” Disinformation, she continued, is “false or misleading information spread with malign intent” and is typically spread by bad actors like China, Iran, or Russia.
She said DHS must address misleading info that drives migrants to the United States & impacts critical infrastructure like gas pipelines & financial systems, in addition to responding to election interference disinformation, because “all of that has very real effects for the safety of Americans.”
Republicans in Congress chastised Jankowicz and the board, alleging that it would be used by Democrats to limit free speech. Last week, House Republican leaders urged Congress to approve legislation shutting down the board and prohibiting federal funds from using similar operations.
Jankowicz worked as a misinformation associate at the Wilson Center, a public policy research institute, where she investigated the nexus of democracy & technology in Central and Eastern Europe before being nominated to lead the board.
Jankowicz said on Wednesday, “To say that I am just a partisan actor is wildly out of context.”
“Then beyond that, it wasn’t just these mischaracterizations of my work, it was death threats against my family,” she continued. “Over the last three weeks, I think maybe there were one or two days where I didn’t report a violent threat, something like ‘we’re coming for you and my family, you and your family should be sent to Russia to be killed,’ encouragement of me to commit suicide.”
Jankowicz said she didn’t have time for such “childishness” and that the threats would not stop her from spreading awareness about misinformation in the future.